30 June 2009

Critical Developmental Periods of Learning

In this very short video, John Abbott discusses the importance of matching the critical learning windows of development to methods of interacting and teaching -- from infancy to adolescence and beyond.

Perhaps the greatest problem with modern affluent societies is their failure to meet the challenge presented by the adolescent developmental period. This failure is manifested by permanently stunted half-adults who never grow beyond quasi-adolescent fads, fashions, and in-group dependencies.

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29 June 2009

Is Lynn Tilton A Modern Dagny Taggart?

Dagney Taggart was the heroine of the Ayn Rand classic "Atlas Shrugged." Taggart was one of the competent pillars of American capitalism holding back the forces of government encroachment and societal decline. A gritty, smart, competent railroad executive, Dagny fought tooth and nail against the collapse of the massively interconnected economic system that she believed in, and played a large part in maintaining.

This determination to save the economic and industrial system of the US put Dagny at odds with the ever-grasping government -- and with a mysterious group of entrepreneurs, industrialists, and wealthy financiers who were disappearing from the face of the Earth. The ongoing disappearance of these important players in US and global capitalism made Dagny's work that much harder. When Dagny discovered that these capitalist cohorts were voluntarily dropping out of the system -- and inviting her to do the same -- she was infuriated, dismayed, and determined even more to succeed against all the odds. But that was before she met John Galt. Who is John Galt?

Lynn Tilton is the CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Partners. Tilton leads the $5 billion venture firm in the effort to "turn around" failing corporations and businesses -- to reverse the accelerating entropy of American business and manufacturing.

The video above gives a very thin slice of Tilton's ideas, achievements, and projects. Tilton's twitter feed is here, and she also has a blog, Dust to Diamonds.

When Al Fin learned about Tilton's Old Town Mill project to take a defunct paper mill and turn it into a potentially thriving wood chip to bio-butanol to jet fuel enterprise, he was quite impressed. While the bio-jet fuel project illustrates Tilton's "turnaround" ability to anticipate trends and to turn "dust into diamonds", it is just one of many projects that Tilton is working on.

What would it take to convince a person like Lynn Tilton that "going John Galt" was the only viable alternative remaining? Quite a lot, I am sure. But Brocko and his gang appear to be doing everything they can to eliminate all viable alternatives.

I wish Ms. Tilton continued good fortune in her projects. Turning around the American economy -- and thus the world's -- is no easy task. Too bad the US has elected a government that is doing everything possible to make that task impossible.

If Ms. Tilton ever does go John Galt, you had best look to your bugout plans.

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Print This!!!

The amazing sandstone sculpture pictured above will be "printed out" as a 10-metre tall pavilion -- to be built in Pontedera, Italy, in 2010. It takes little imagination to see fantastically imaginative houses and other buildings constructed using the same "printer" approach. The materials used are simply sand or mineral dust combined with an inorganic binder. The final sandstone material has passed a large array of traction, compression and bending tests with flying colours. In other words, the building approach is capable of scaling safely at least to the 10-metre scale structure to be built in Italy. Suitable reinforcing nano-fibres can be included as scaling requires.

Such sandstone buildings would blend well in a desert environment. The thermal characteristics of thick sandstone walls are suitable for dry climates with severe temperature swings.

But I am more excited by the potential of this building technique for printing other types of structures, using alternative building "inks." In particular, nano-porous "inks" with suitable binding agents could print a wide array of sturdy floating structures capable of serving as seasteads in many waters of the world. Check out the "Sea Foam Colony" idea for a similar approach to extruding a seastead.

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28 June 2009

College Degrees Overpriced, Oversold

The system must change before students are made poorer, society grows less equal, the bright are left ignorant and "college" comes to mean a four-year pajama party intruded upon by the occasional group discussion on gender studies. The answer is to relieve schools of the job of validating knowledge and return them to a role of spreading it. Colleges should no more vouch for their own academic competence than butchers should decide for themselves whether their meat is USDA prime. _NYP
If you are at all concerned about the cost and quality of a college education, Jack Hough's New York Post article excerpted above is well worth your time. Today's college education often amounts to little more than training in binge drinking, hooking up, cult-like programming in ideological "correctness", and all around cultural superficiality and perpetual immaturity.

Hough's conceptual sketch of the lifelong "knowledge transcript" is worth the time of reading the article. Analogous to a person's lifelong medical record, the knowledge transcript would convey a person's qualifications to potential employer's and contracting agencies in far more detail and accuracy than any college diploma.

Opportunities for learning and developing expertise in today's society are growing exponentially. Most of these opportunities take place outside of university degree programs -- and often provide more relevant skills and competencies than traditional college degree courses will have done. An accurate way of capturing a person's competencies in toto, as they change over time, would provide a far superior evaluation of expected value to others in the marketplace.


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27 June 2009

Imagine My Surprise . . . . .

.... to discover that others had happened upon a similar idea for a wave energy conversion / floating platform stabiliser to one that I have played with for over ten years now. My inspiration came from reading the Marshall Savage book, The Millenial Project.The version above was conceived by Joseph George, and is described further here. The idea as pictured needs some modification to provide greater robustness in high seas, but the drawing demonstrates the function of one short row of the devices. In an actual floating platform, many such rows would exist, in arrays.

The next two images portray a similar device which helped win the Rolls-Royce Prize for best Master's Thesis in 2007, and the JEC Innovation Award in 2009. This prize winner is the result of a collaboration between Norwegian and Belgian engineers. As you can see, the "point absorbers" in the second platform converter are not open-bottomed like the absorbers in the Joseph George design at top.

The image above and to the right shows a "wave farm" comprising four of the platforms pictured below and to the left.
The platform design with multiple point absorbers presents advantages that are not available from several other wave energy conversion devices, particularly when incorporated into a seastead design.

The concept of using such point absorbers for both wave energy conversion and for "shock absorbers" to smoothe the platform's ride, appeals to my sense of multi-functionality. For rough seas in the open ocean, some form of "breakwater" would still be necessary to reduce the shock to the platform and the point absorbers.Looking at the most recent prototype design for a seastead from the Seasteading Institute, it is not terribly difficult to imagine the placement of similar point absorbers beneath the platform, given the suitable infrastructure. As I said, however, in high seas the occupants of such a seastead might be grateful to have a sturdy floating breakwater on the job. Al Fin engineers are in the process of designing such a "device."

I am pleased to see that the "point absorber" wave energy conversion idea has been developed to this point by multiple inventors, and hope that such platforms can eventually be used productively.

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26 June 2009

The Reach of North Korean Missiles

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Thanks to the miracle of modern missile technology, two-penny dictators like Kim Jong Il can now hold the Sword of Damocles over heads of state around the world. South America and Greenland appear to be fairly safe from a sneak attack from the diminutive cockroach (see Team America).

But then, how long before Venezuela's Hugo Chavez gets similar capability to wreak havoc on his foes? Paint similar red circles with their centers on Caracas. Do the same for Damascus, Tehran, Tripoli, Riyadh, Islamabad. Now you begin to understand the scope of the problem.

Nuclear technology and missile technology are out of the box, freely available to anyone who can pay. As the US loses its will and ability to restrain nuclear proliferation, two-penny dictators around the globe will almost certainly take the opportunity to nuke up.

Of course the danger from these tin-pot nuclear dictatorships is more to their neighbors, and to the global environment should large-scale fallout take place. But it only takes a small nuke or two to finish off LA, NYC, DC, or London. And a skillful EMP attack to finish the US as a modern economic force would require only a dozen or fewer well-placed nukes. A world without the US is a world on its way down.

China and Russia are not above arming a third party, in order to devastate their mutual enemy while retaining plausible deniability. This could never happen in the old order of things, when the US was strong and the anchor of the world economy -- necessary to the prosperity of all exporting nations.

Things are different now. China and Russia have significant economic problems now that world demand for their exports is way down. Political instability with a collapse of the current political order is not out of the question for either oppressive state, should things go badly with the world economy. Should either the CCP or Putin see such a thing coming to pass, neither would hesitate to set a plan in motion that they felt would reduce pressure on them from the outside.

In other words, if everything is going to hell anyway, why would Putin or the CCP pause before badly handicapping a long-time enemy -- as long as a third party will take the blame?

The world is nothing like it seems.

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Society for Creative Apocalyptology Looks at Deep Science Research Facility in Homestake Mine

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Almost a mile deep, under the Black Hills of South Dakota, the US government is building the world's deepest underground scientific hidey-hole. The groundbreaking for the facility was attended by politicians, connected individuals, and scientists who may eventually work in one of the labs to be built deep underground.

The new labs will be built in and around the old Homestake Gold Mine, which extends as deeply as 8,000 feet underground. The gold mine was shut down in 2001 and allowed to flood when pumps were shut down. Refurbishing of the mine will involve restoring the pumps, refurbishing and stabilising tunnels, and building new underground infrastructure for scientific and other purposes.

The ostensible purpose of the deep new facility is to study dark matter in a location that is deep enough to be shielded from cosmic rays. But can you think of any other reasons for building such a deep, remote, high technology facility? And how many politicians are more interested in dark matter than in confiscating as much wealth from taxpayers and anyone else, as they can?

The new scientific lab complex is expected to span a wide array of experimental sciences, as the refurbishers develop new methods of deep underground architecture.

Analysts at the Society for Creative Apocalyptology © have looked at the plans for the new underground lab, and concluded that it would make an ideal university / scientific complex to survive the next apocalypse -- whatever the cause.

When the axe falls on civilisation, human societies in the western world will fragment by religion, ethnicity, language, and the luck of the draw. If you find yourself living in a bad neighborhood when the doom comes down, you had better have some very good extraction plans already set in place, and well-rehearsed.

The electrical grid will go down fairly quickly, since it is unlikely that many utility managers will have had to foresight to disconnect their sections of the grid to prevent cascading failures. Manpower shortages at all high technology installations would grow acute quite quickly. Universities, high tech labs and research centers, and other high tech facilities would quickly fall to the momentum of collapse, and be looted and stripped beyond repair.

That is why a facility such as the one in South Dakota is so important in the re-start of civilisation -- after the fall. A location where top scientists and technologists across a wide range of human scientific and technological skills can continue to advance their studies while the rest of the world is falling down around them. Then, when the momentum of collapse dies down and the pressure from the doom inciting event(s) has subsided, advance teams of scouts can move out of the enclave to survey the damages and the potential for re-emergence.

A schedule for the re-introduction of technology can be devised and implemented by advance teams of skilled workers, as likely surviving population centers are located. As surviving, rejuvenated population centers are re-connected, a new larger society can be regrown.

But you will not read about these plans in conventional journals, papers, or blogs. And the SCA agrees that popular knowledge of such generative / regenerative knowledge centers would be counter-productive. Of course, what the government is attempting in South Dakota (and what the UK is attempting in Scotland etc.) is nothing more than a tax-supported version of what the SCA has been working on all along, using private funding.

H/T ImpactLab

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24 June 2009

If US Housing is at the Bottom, Why Is Barney Frank Pushing Fannie Mae to Loosen Its Lending Standards Again?

The unemployment rate is expected to continue rising -- at least above 10% -- and perhaps as high as 15 to 20 % by the end of 2009. The continuing loss of jobs (and businesses) will put ever-increasing pressure on the mortgage divisions of large banks.

The pension crisis is just starting to kick in across the country, and the additive effect of huge government deficits on top of a continued economic slowdown will put a dangerously inflationary spin on the current Obama depression.

Peter Schiff has a few words on that topic from yesterday's Vlog:

America cannot get out from under the disastrous "economic perfect storm" as long as its political leadership is doing all that it can to make the disaster worse. Expect continued economic slowdowns combined with a growing inflation for the near to medium term.

From "Cap and Trade" to "Obamacare" to "Card Check" to the nationalisation of huge sections of American industry, to unprecedented budget deficits and dysfunctional spending -- the Obama Outfit appears dedicated to salting the fields of the American economy.

Obama and his cronies have to be painstakingly cleared away from positions of responsibility in as many areas of government as possible, before America can begin to recover, long term. At this time, America's news and entertainment media is still so deeply into denial over its "Messiah", that the suffering of the Obamapocalypse will have to grow much larger -- to undeniable levels before the majority of Americans begin to comprehend what they have let themselves in for.

Update Full Disclosure 25 June 09: Al Fin would be the first to admit that the impending economic disaster the US is facing would have occurred anyway -- in 2025. The entitlement crisis and the pension crisis would have combined with the demographic crunch to create the same combination of problems. In a sense, Obama only accelerated the process by 15 years and put it on steroids. The Obama build-up of the government sector at the expense of the private sector is remarkable in its swiftness, and in the lack of public backlash.

Whether many Americans would have taken that 15 years (until the 2025 depression) and used them to prepare for the inevitable is a moot question. They no longer have that 15 year buffer period.

If the US Congress passes the cap and trade bill (to say nothing of card check, Obamacare, and any number of other corrupt monstrosities) there will be no turning back. The US will have a 15 year head start on the 2025 depression.


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23 June 2009

Artificial Intelligence: It Still Stinks

Update 24 June 09: This Rodney Brooks article in the April 09 issue of Cosmos presents an expert viewpoint which I consider to be one of the most honest and insightful about AI, from an AI expert. Brooks has long been a champion of the "bottom-up" approach to creating lifelike behaviour in robots, and seems to understand the importance of "embodying" an intelligence, complete with emotions or quasi-emotions.

Forbes has published an Artificial Intelligence Report (via Instapundit) online that presents an array of viewpoints on the present and future of AI. From Kurzweil-like true believers in the coming of superhuman intelligent machines to skeptical wanna-believers like David Gelernter, over 20 insiders and quasi-insiders provide their insights into the likely future of AI as they see it.

Unfortunately, not even the insights of Ben Goertzel, Hugo de Garis, Judea Pearl, and other experts, provide any evidence that AI researchers have confronted -- much less overcome -- the monumental conceptual obstacles that have prevented AI research from "reaching first base" in the attempt at devising a human-level intelligent machine.

Despite the painfully obvious differences between human consciousness and algorithmic approaches (even algorithms informed by Bayesian networks) to solving problems, today's students and tomorrow's researchers appear to be stuck in mental conceptualisations of intelligence that were already outmoded 20 years ago. Until students are relieved of such dysfunctional shackles, it is likely that they will continue repeating the mistakes of their predecessors in AI research.

Herbert Gelernter reveals that IBM is planning to pit its "Blue Gene" project against human contestants on the Jeopardy game show. Such a test of general knowledge would certainly hit at the sense of human supremacy where it might hurt the most, should the computer win. But it is difficult to know where the human contribution begins and ends in such projects as "Blue Gene" and "Deep Blue." These projects are not actually artificial intelligences so much as highly tuned human-machine team efforts. Such a "neo-Turing Test" is an improvement over the original, but if IBM does not allow a thorough look "behind the curtain", the wizardliness of Blue Gene might not inspire any more confidence than Oz deserved.

Machine "intelligence" has made inroads in many areas, providing useful assistance to human experts in science, medicine, economics, commerce, transportation, the military, and increasingly in government. But these are all special-purpose problem solvers and aids to decision making. Not broad spectrum all-purpose intelligences in their own right, capable of learning and acting on their own initiative.

Human intelligence is the only "higher" intelligence that we know of. Until AI researchers confront the core problem of human intelligence -- embodied consciousness -- they will continue to beat around the bush for many more decades, and end up little ahead for all the effort.

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William R. Forstchen Discusses EMP Threat

William R. Forstchen is the author of the bestselling near-future thriller, "One Second After." In this Pajamas TV special, Forstchen discusses the threat from EMP to modern civilisations.

Try living without electricity for a week or two. Then imagine entire neighborhoods, communities, cities, and regions going without electrical power for weeks and months. How many would survive after a few months without power? Trauma victims and the critically ill would be the first to die. Then persons with renal failure, insulin dependent diabetes, heart failure, and other chronically ill persons dependent upon short supplies of medication would die. Treating infectious diseases would be a whole new ballgame without immunisations and antibiotics.

Grocery stores and department stores would be looted for supplies. Food supplies would run short due to a shortage of fuel and viable vehicles. Houses and buildings would burn in the absence of the ability to put out the flames. And so on.

Forstchen's book does a good job of describing the breakdown of civil order, and the abysmal death rates that would result from loss of electricity. Keep in mind that a lot of triggers could result in the same widespread death, violence, loss of cohesion. EMP is only one of many.

H/T Instapundit

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22 June 2009

Economic Boom China 2009: The Dark Side

The international media has been following reports of record commodity imports by China. The surge is being portrayed as reflecting China's recovering economy. Indeed, the international financial market is portraying China's perceived recovery as a harbinger for global recovery. It is a major factor pushing up stock prices around the world.

But China's imports are mostly for speculative inventories. Bank loans were so cheap and easy to get that many commodity distributors used financing for speculation. The first wave of purchases was to arbitrage the difference between spot and futures prices. That was smart. But now that price curves have flattened for most commodities, these imports are based on speculation that prices will increase. Demand from China's army of speculators is driving up prices, making their expectations self-fulfilling in the short term. _Caijing.com_via_FabiusMaximus
Large numbers of investors and financial analysts have pinned their hopes for the global economy on China's back. The most polluting nation on Earth, one of the most dictatorial and most corrupt nations on the planet is being held up as the future of the planetary economic system.

But China's cheery economic numbers may be hiding a darker set of realities behind the bamboo curtain. Here is one critical look at China's economic situation that is worth a read. The Chinese economy may be in the middle of a huge financial bubble of its own.

China has been buying up commodities worldwide at a frantic pace -- trying to take advantage of bargain basement prices brought on by low global demand. This Chinese commodities "rally" has inflated the Baltic Dry Index and China's economic figures, but it may be on the verge of fizzling.

The emerging problem of toxic Chinese drywall sales to North America is likely to once again raise the issue of the Chinese Poison Train. Toxic products flowing out of Chinese enterprises into world marketplaces should have had a far worse impact on Chinese exports than they have done. Poor quality steel from Chinese foundries is another problem likely to come back to bite the dragon's tail.

The problem of excessive Chinese regulations and limitations on entry into the marketplace continue to give corrupt and inefficient State Owned Enterprises in China an unfair advantage over private enterprise. This corrupt inefficiency shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

The gullibility of those who take Chinese economic figures at face value is difficult to explain, outside of wishful thinking. Everyone is looking for the big score, and right now China seems to be the biggest score around. Wait and see.

Based on an article from Abu Al Fin

Update: News stories here and here illustrate the uncertainty and volatility within world markets.

It is unlikely that the Obama crew has more ideas than to "inject more liquidity". Like the "mechanic" whose answer to every car problem is to add a quart of oil to the engine. You must have had some reason to vote for him, America.

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21 June 2009

Expect Another US Real Estate Bubble Shortly

Robert Shiller explains in the Gulf Times why another real estate bubble is likely to be heading our way before long.
The kinds of expectations for real estate prices that have informed public thinking during the recent bubbles were often totally unrealistic. A few years ago Karl Case and I asked random home buyers in US cities undergoing bubbles how much they think the price of their home will rise each year on average over the next ten years. The median answer was sometimes 10% a year.

If one compounds that rate over 10 years, they were expecting an increase of a factor of 2.5, and, if one extrapolates, a 2000-fold increase over the course of a lifetime. Home prices cannot have shown such increases over long time periods, for then no one could afford a home.

The sobering truth is that the current world economic crisis was substantially caused by the collapse of speculative bubbles in real estate (and stock) markets – bubbles that were made possible by widespread misunderstandings of the factors influencing prices.

These misunderstandings have not been corrected, which means that the same kinds of speculative dislocations could recur. _GulfTimes_via_SimoleonSense
The US government for its part appears to be stoking the flames for another real estate bubble. The Obama - Geithner financial regulations are set to inflate Fannie Mae, Freedie Mac, and the Community Reinvestment Act back up to catastrophic proportions, just as occurred in the last days of the Clinton administration.
“Starting with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, that was given more teeth during the Clinton administration, Congress started intimidating banks and other financial institutions into making loans, so-called sub-prime loans, to high-risk homebuyers and businesses.

“The carrot offered was that these high-risk loans would be purchased by the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Anyone with an ounce of brains would have known that this was a prescription for disaster but there was a congressional chorus of denial,” he added.

“The financial collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is not a failure of the free market because lending institutions in a free market would not have taken on the high-risk loans,” said Williams. “They were forced to by the heavy hand of government.” _CNS
As Steve Sailer points out, the Obama administration is ratcheting up pressure on lending institutions to provide loans to unqualified borrowers. In fact, under Obama, such pressure is likely to be much higher than ever before. If affirmative action banking can solve problems created by affirmative action banking, then Obama's thinking is quite sound.

Expect a whole series of financial bubbles during the Obama reich, each somewhat more inflated than the previous one.

Bonus Link: Another look at why the Obama stimulus plan is rapidly inflating debt at the cost of future economic growth. It's what you get when you elect a clown to do a job that requires someone with more qualifications.

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Boycott Al Fin Blog For The Month of July!

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Yes, you read the title correctly. Al Fin is recommending that you not read any Al Fin postings in July. Instead, you should devote a bit of time each day to read the master's thesis by David J. Tamm entitled "The Reinvigoration of the West through Outer Space Development." You can download a PDF version of the thesis.

Tamm's thesis takes a rather clear look at many of the underlying reasons for the current stagnation and malaise that dominates modern western culture. In fact, you can be excused for thinking that Al Fin himself wrote large sections of the thesis, so many of Tamm's ideas parallel Fin's thoughts so closely.

The long term survival of the human race is uncertain, given recent demographic trends. The transcendence from earth-bound humans into a space-faring race of wise and intelligent creatures is even less probable. For humans to grow from their current quasi monkeyhood into truly sapient creatures, they need to meet and overcome huge challenges.

But modern western culture is more about avoiding challenges and embracing the stagnant quagmire of mediocrity. The current US government wants to turn the US into a comfortable retirement home much like Europe. A world run by government bureaucracy, where CYA and groupthink replace all innovative and creative thought. A heaven for leftists and Obama zombies.

What use do mediocre government bureaucrats have for outer space? It's just too hard, too expensive, too dangerous. Let's just create and expand more social programs instead! Governments thrive on malaise and dependency. Primitive level humans accept such a master-slave relationship all too easily.

What is the alternative? Read Tamm's thesis and find out.

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19 June 2009

Known as the Obama Depression, It Devastated Generations Around the World

...today I got my hands on alarming graphs from the folks at VoxEU (via a column by Martin Wolf) which convincingly demonstrates that, for the much of the world, 2009 looks, without question, just as bad, if not worse, than the first years of the Great Depression. _Atlantic
Sometimes the best intentions only make things worse. Particularly when the "remedies" are piled on too high and too fast. The financial markets anticipated this governmental "blitzkrieg" of counterproductive spending and huge new entitlement programs and regulatory regimes -- which is why they crashed so far, so fast.
Former GE CEO Jack Welch discussing Obama’s financial reform plan on Squawk Box this morning:

My whole feeling [not just on the financial reform plan] is let’s slow down. I mean, we’re touching every corner of this economy. We’re going from healthcare, 20 percent of the economy, to the environment with cap-and-trade, which touches every corner. And now this. And he’s only been in there four or five months. I hope somebody in Congress says, “Whoa, let’s discuss these things and what the implications are.”
If an individual's IQ drops at least 10 points when he tries to multi-task, what do you think happens to a government's IQ when it attempts rapid massive revolutionary transformation on a large number of tracks simultaneously? It crashes like the stock market.

Obviously the US President and his group of close advisors have been planning this broad and radical transformation for some time now. They are not taking these steps in order to solve the current crisis. They are taking these steps under the cover of the current crisis. Never let a good crisis go to waste, so to speak.

Unfortunately, this particular radical transformation and expansion of government would not be wise under the best of circumstances. But in the current financial instability, it is suicidal. What we are seeing is the destruction of opportunity and innovation. In their place we are seeing permanent mediocrity, as overseen by an ever-growing monstrous bureaucracy on steroids.

Don't get me wrong. The general direction of this decline has been set since the 1960s. It is the rate of decline that has become dizzying. I am not saying the bottom is falling out. But if it should happen, you may not have as much advance warning as you think. Certainly the news and entertainment media are not paying close attention to the warning signs.

If you haven't already, set aside safe stores of water, canned food and dried food. Stock up on easily transportable trade goods that will be much in demand in a financial crisis. Set aside some cash where you can get to it if you need it. Make sure you have some gold and silver coins that are easily recognisable. Devise a way of making your own power apart from the grid.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

Special Bonus: Option ARMS, the next mortgage crisis just around the corner.


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17 June 2009

Planet Earth's Air Conditioner System Part 2

Over at WUWT, Willis Eschenbach adds to the "Global Air Conditioner" hypothesis in a guest post. Willis provides the image above, which models the planet Earth as a "heat engine." Incoming heat energy from the sun is absorbed, reflected, convected, and circulated in a large number of ways.

Here are Willis' conclusions after a long, detailed line of reasoning:
1. The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun’s energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.

2. This reflective shield of clouds forms in the tropics in response to increasing temperature.3. As tropical temperatures continue to rise, the reflective shield is assisted by the formation of independent heat engines called thunderstorms. These cool the surface in a host of ways, move heat aloft, and convert heat to work.

4. Like cumulus clouds, thunderstorms also form in response to increasing temperature.

5. Because they are temperature driven, as tropical temperatures rise, tropical thunderstorms and cumulus production increase. These combine to regulate and limit the temperature rise. When tropical temperatures are cool, tropical skies clear and the earth rapidly warms. But when the tropics heat up, cumulus and cumulonimbus put a limit on the warming. This system keeps the earth within a fairly narrow band of temperatures.

6. The earth’s temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.

7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years. _WattsUpWithThat
You will need to read the entire posting to understand the conclusions excerpted above.

There is a good reason why climate models are held in such low regard by scientists who understand the complexities involved. If you are on the inside of the scam, however, you may be willing to overlook a few deficiencies in the models for the sake of job advancement and some name recognition. Unfortunately for the scammers, this little play is approaching its expiration date. They have to work very fast or the gig is up.

Planet Earth's Air Conditioner System Part 1

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Scamander Amphibious All Terrain Vehicle

This one of a kind vehicle was built as a prototype for a future line of amphibious vehicles. Unfortunately the builder and financer, Peter Wheeler, died before he had the chance to move to production.
When Wheeler sold TVR to Nikolai Smolenski, he saw it as an opportunity to build the car he’d always wanted to, something that combined his passion for driving fast with the ability to literally go anywhere.

“Lots of people are fed up with their traditional sports cars, like Ferrari and Lamborghini produce, so I wanted to create an alternative,” Wheeler told EVO Magazine last November. “I created it for me, to be honest. I enjoy shooting, sailing and driving on track, so I wanted something that could cover all these elements. I call it an RRV, for rapid response vehicle.” _ImpactLab

It moves slowly in the water with sluggish marine handling, but it's the idea that counts. People actually want vehicles that drive like a car, cruise like a yacht, and fly like a plane. Two out of three isn't bad, for the time being. For my purposes, I need a vehicle that also runs submerged like a sub, in addition to the other three travel modes.

The psychology of transcending limits is foreign to today's educational system. Instead, we have the oppressive regime that imposes imaginary limits without end and creates catastrophe out of whole cloth. Consider it a slavery of the mind, unrelenting, malaise-perpetuating, without end.

What are you going to do?


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16 June 2009

You Really Must Like High Energy Prices!

Brian Westenhaus presents an excellent example of how US government regulations are choking domestic energy supplies and driving up costs of industry, commerce, and daily life for every American.
Everyone world wide would be affected. Today the U.S. is a very small importer of natural gas. The proposed bill would certainly change that forcing the U.S. into the world natural gas market in a big way. _NewEnergyandFuel
How far will the Obama government go to create "political peak oil" and other fabricated disasters? And how long will it take for the American news and entertainment media to let the people know what is happening, to wake them up?

Government is creating political peak oil for reasons of its own. Someone benefits from the expanding web of regulations, taxes, fines, restrictions, and opening up to lawsuits that Americans are now experiencing. It is great job security for government bureaucrats, trial lawyers, and faux environmental activists, at the very least. But it is hell on the productive class of a country. Long term, this type of government destroys the productive potential of generations of citizens, until they wake up and get rid of it.The government is not the country. The government is a parasite on the country and on the people. The installation of particular persons in high governmental office leads to a pathological bloating of the parasite with the blood of taxpayers and commercial enterprise.

As long as government is kept strictly limited to the essential roles of protecting citizens from violence, theft, and fraud, the parasite can be managed. But the US government broke the chains put on it by the people and the Constitution in the early 20th century -- and has been growing oppressively larger in fits and starts ever since.

Under the current president, the US government has chosen to expand beyond all precedent, over a very short time span. This growth is very profitable to a select group of insiders -- labour unions, trial lawyers, campaign contributors, "connected" individuals -- but it is death to the people's hopes and dreams.

How will the people respond to the uncontrolled growth of the parasite?


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15 June 2009

Light Rays, Electric Shock, Cold Plasma Fire

Light rays and electric shock combine to purify an unlimited quantity of fresh water, inexpensively.
A new water-treatment technique that combines two expensive methods could prove a cheaper and more efficient way to remove hard-to-clean contaminants. The technology combines photocatalysis, which uses light to break down pollutants, and electrochemical oxidation, which uses an electrical current to do the same.

Aicheng Chen, an associate professor and Canada Research Chair of material and environmental chemistry at Lakehead University, in Ontario, has filed for a patent on the process and says that it could be commercialized within two years. Chen combined the two water-treatment methods by creating a dual-purpose electrode. On one side, the electrode is coated with a photocatalyst, and on the other with an electrocatalyst. Chen tested the electrode's ability to remove two different nitrophenols--chemicals that are frequently used to manufacture drugs, pesticides, fungicides, and dyes and are commonly found in industrial wastewater. The dual-function electrode removed between 85 and 90 percent of the notoriously hard-to-remove pollutants over three hours, compared with only 30 and 60 percent for either technique alone. Chen's results were published last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. _TechnologyReview
Cold plasma fire is a new technology destined to revolutionise dentistry and perhaps medicine.
Though it looks like a tiny purple blowtorch, a pencil-sized plume of plasma on the tip of a small probe remains at room temperature as it swiftly dismantles tough bacterial colonies deep inside a human tooth. But it's not another futuristic product of George Lucas' imagination. It's the exciting work of USC School of Dentistry and Viterbi School of Engineering researchers looking for new ways to safely fight tenacious biofilm infections in patients – and it could revolutionize many facets of medicine. _SD
Sometimes groundbreaking new technologies grow out a simple hunch. The creative process occurs almost entirely subconsciously, on a massively parallel basis -- whereas the conscious mind is almost completely serial in nature. Unknown to the conscious mind, multiple strands of reasoning compete in an evolutionary "survival of the fittest" contest. Sometimes -- when we are very luck like Archimedes -- we experience a Eureka! moment, and perceive the world in a new, more powerful way.

If we are to move past the current quagmire of bad government, bad media, and corrupt education and science, into the next level of unlimited possibilities -- we will need abundant clean water. We will need teeth that last a very long lifetime. We will need abundant clean energy, transportation to take us as far as we wish, medical technologies that keep our bodies and minds vital for centuries. We will depend upon our subconscious minds for many breakthroughs, but we need to stop fooling ourselves into falling for grifters and con artists.

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superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others

If you see Mr. Obama in the title, it is not a coincidence. Politicians share all these traits:
superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others
with serial killers, and other sociopathic personalities.

In fact, the Obama administration is just organised crime on a national scale. Look at the blatant political firing of a government inspector-general, hot on the trail of Obama era corruption in stimulus funds. And this is just the beginning for Brocko, crime boss and godfather extraordinaire.

Grand and sweeping new Obama era regulations will cost the economy well over a trillion dollars. Other new Obama reich regulations threaten to place ever more economic transations under The Outfit's thumb.

But Brocko is just getting started on his crime spree takeover of the US economy. Just wait until he gets his Obamacare Medical Caper going. Then you'll see programmed entitlement growth and regulation expansion out the schnazoo.

Politician, crime boss, master magician -- all of these descriptions and more apply to Brocko da Bomba.

If you believe the Brocko story will have a happy ending for anyone concerned, you should go out and invest all you have in the stock market, in commodities, in real estate, in government bonds -- and contribute to the ongoing Obama campaign that never ends.

Beg, borrow, and steal if you have to -- Brocko does! Any way you can, get the money and invest and contribute to the cause, because you believe. And if you believe it, it must be true.

H/T Reverse Spins

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The Obama Debt: Something New, Something Old

[Obama and] the feds have their hearts set on preventing a depression. And they’re doing it the only way they can…by the old “hair of the dog” technique. The economy suffers from too much debt – so they’re going to give it more! Much more. The whole pooch! The whole kennel! Then, they round up every stray mongrel in town. What happens when they run out of dogs? Well…that’s a discussion for another day. _SeekingAlpha
Obama zombies want you to think the worsening financial disaster is "Bush's fault." They rode that horse all the way from Chicago to the White House, and they intend to ride it until it drops dead. The graph above tells a different story.

The reality is much worse than the graph, of course. It was obvious as far back as the 1970s that Medicare and Social Security were on an unsustainable trajectory that would break almost any conceivable budget. Even without the subprime crisis brought on by the bank demolition squads unleashed in the dying days of Bill Clinton's term, the debt crisis was bound to hit the US before 2025.

Obama has accelerated that process ten times over, and is bringing the debt crisis rapidly forward to the present day. The Obama debt expansion express shows no sign of slowing down. As long as enough suckers are distracted by the "Blame Bush" campaign, and fail to see that the bulk of the "Blame Bush" debt was already programmed into the system by Clinton and earlier administrations, Obama will be free to wreak his havoc and continue to explode the debt at an unprecedented rate.

The news media has been in thrall to Obama since early in the campaign, and shows no sign of having an attack of objectivity any time soon. You will not understand what is happening unless you look beyond the smoke screen to understand how you are being hoodwinked, hornswaggled, and bamboozled by Brocko the Clown and his gang of cutpurses.

Oh, and that graph above? Forget about the short term reversal of trends in rate of deficit accumulation. Its all uphill from now on, as long as Brocko runs The Outfit. Brocko don't fool around.


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14 June 2009

What's In Your Basement? Your Neighborhood?

Once again America is caught in the grips of survival frenzy. Clueless naifs rule the nation, and the future of the economy is in the hands of a determined cabal guided by a bankrupt and destructive ideology.

Not since the days of President Jimmy Carter has the outlook for the national and global economy looked so dismal. Is it any wonder that survival talk is pushing its way into the mainstream, slowly but surely. What's in your basement?Your survival depends a great deal upon the community around you. The prospects for long term survival for individuals, families, and small groups alone are vanishingly small. But small communities working together can survive a large range of natural and unnatural disasters. Here are a few things you should look for in a community:
Twenty Clues to Rural Community Survival
An Annotated List

1. Evidence of Community Pride
Successful communities are often showplaces of community care and attention, with neatly trimmed yards, public gardens, and well-kept public parks. But pride also shows up in other ways, especially in community festivals and events that give residents the chance to celebrate their community, its history and heritage.

2. Emphasis on Quality in Business andCommunity Life
People in successful communities believe that something worth doing is worth doing right. Facilities are built to last, and so are homes and other improvements. Newer brick additions to schools are common, for example, and businesses are built or expanded with attention to design and construction detail.

3. Willingness to Invest in the Future
Some of the brick and mortar investments are most apparent, but these communities also invest in their future in other ways. Residents invest time and energy in community improvement projects, and they concern themselves with how what they are doing today will impact on the lives of their children and grandchildren in the future.

4. Participatory Approach to CommunityDecision-Making
Authoritarian models don't seem to exist in these communities, and power is deliberately shared. People still know who you need on your side to get something done, but even the most powerful of opinion leaders seem to work through the systems--formal as well as informal--to build consensus for what they want to do.

5. Cooperative Community Spirit Successful
rural communities devote more attention to cooperative activities than to fighting over what should be done and by whom. The stress is on working together toward a common goal and the focus is on positive results.

6. Realistic Appraisal of Future Opportunities
Many of the communities have already learned an important strategic lesson, namely building on your assets and minimizing your weaknesses. Few small communities believe that they are likely to land a giant industry. Many of them say they wouldn't want one if it came along, fearing too much dependence on one employer would be dangerous. The successful communities know that a more realistic approach considers the community and the region as the context for future opportunities.

7. Awareness of Competitive Positioning
The thriving communities know who the competition is and so do the businesses. Everyone tries to stress local loyalty as a way to help, but many businesses also keep tabs on their competitors in other towns-they don't want any of the hometown folks to have an excuse to go elsewhere. This is an area in which the recognition of community assets-people, associations and institutions-is vitally important. The comparison of one town to another is a significant means to spur improvements.

8. Knowledge of the Physical Environment
Importance of location is underscored continuously in local decision-making, as business and civic leaders picture their community in relation to others. Beyond location, however, communities must also be familiar with what they have locally. For example, the issue of preservation and protection of natural resources must be balanced with development options. Communities that manage this balance have a long-term approach to both environmental preservation and economic development.

9. Active Economic Development Program
An organized and active approach to economic development is common in successful communities. This type of approach depends on public and private sector resources working hand in hand. Private economic development corporations are common, either as a subcommittee or an outgrowth of a Chamber of Commerce or commercial club. However, it's clear that the most successful towns emphasize retaining and expanding existing businesses as well as trying to develop new businesses. This is a "gardening not hunting" model of economic development.

10. Deliberate Transition of Power to a Younger Generation of Leaders
Young leadership is more the rule than the exception n thriving rural communities. In many cases, these young people grew up in town and decided to stay or returned later to raise a family. In just as many situations, they are people who have decided to make a life in the community even though they grew up elsewhere. However, it's typical in a successful community to have a formal or informal means for established leaders to bring new recruits into public service.

11. Acceptance of Women in Leadership Roles
Women hold positions of leadership in these rural communities, and those roles extend beyond the traditional strongholds of teacher, nurse or librarian. In successful communities, so men take on roles as mayors, law enforcement officers, non-profit managers, business owners, etc. In many communities, this inclusion is expanded to minorities, newcomers and all types of non-traditional leaders.

12. Strong Belief in and Support of Education
Good schools are a point of pride as well as a stable employment force, and rural community leaders are very much aware of their school's importance. However, this characteristic goes beyond the K-12 system to include an approach to life-long learning that puts education at the center of many community activities. Whether adult education is targeted at skills and job performance or hobbies and recreation, the successful community makes the most of education at all levels.

13. Problem-SolvingApproach to Providing Health Care
Local health care is a common concern in rural communities, but strategies for delivery vary, depending on community needs. While one community may decide that keeping a doctor in residence should be the priority, another may choose to train as many people as possible as EMTs or to use telecommunications to augment a clinic. The point here is the variety of solutions to a common problem.

14. Strong Multi- Generational Family Orientation
These are family-oriented communities, with activities often built around family needs and ties. But the definition of family is broad, and it includes younger as well as older generations and people new to the community. A typical example of this attitude is the provision of child care for community town hall meetings, thus allowing young families to attend.

15. Strong Presence of Traditional Institutions that Are Integral
Churches are often the strongest force in this characteristic, but other types of community institutions such as newspapers and radio stations, hospitals and schools fill this role also. Service clubs retain a strong influence in social activities as well as in community improvement efforts.

16. Sound and Well-MaintainedInfrastructure
Thriving rural communities understand the Importance of physical infrastructures such as streets, sidewalks, water systems, sewage treatment plants-and efforts are made to maintain and improve them. In these communities, a clean-up day includes public parks and playgrounds, business owners keep sidewalks repaired, and volunteer labor and donated materials go a long way to maintaining public buildings.

17. Careful Use of Fiscal Resources Frugality
is a way of life in successful small communities, and expenditures are made carefully. People aren't afraid to spend money, when they believe they should, and then, typically, things are built to last. But neither are they spendthrifts. Expenditures are often seen as investments in the future of the community.

18. Sophisticated Use of Information Resources
Rural community leaders are knowledgeable about their communities beyond the knowledge base available in the community. In one town, for example, retail sales histories from a state university were studied for trend information. In another, census data was used to study population change. In many communities, computer links to the world wide web have made all types of information available.

19. Willingness to Seek Help from the Outside [Unless there is no "outside" left _AF]
There's little reluctance to seek help from outside resources. These communities understand the system of accessing resources, ranging from grants for infrastructure improvement to expertise about human service programs. Competing for such resources successfully is a source of pride for local leaders.

20. Conviction that, in the Long Run, You Have to Do It Yourself
Although outside help is sought when appropriate, it is nevertheless true that thriving small towns believe that their destiny is in their own hands. They are not waiting for some outsider to service them, nor do they believe that they can sit and wait for things to get better. Making a hometown a good place to live for a long time to come is a proactive assignment, and these local leaders know that no one will take care of a town as well as the people who live there. _Source
With the popularity of the recently published disaster novel "One Second After," more people are thinking about the possibility of large scale societal breakdown -- particularly in the age of Obama governmental corruption at all scales. What makes the mood far darker than it needs to be, is the news and entertainment media's refusal to question the destructive and potentially catastrophic policies of the current US government.

The mood is likely to turn much darker before bad policies, bad government, and bad media are finally overturned.

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13 June 2009

Baby B.O.'s Brave Neo-Slavery Without End: "Reparations" Without Emancipation

It has taken Barak Obama less than 4 months as US President to cast a pall over the American economic future for generations. Obama's record-breaking budget-busting spending spree has shackled future generations of American taxpayers with the ball and chain, with no end in sight.
Not since the second world war have so many governments borrowed so much so quickly or, collectively, been so heavily in hock. And today’s debt surge, unlike the wartime one, will not be temporary. Even after the recession ends few rich countries will be running budgets tight enough to stop their debt from rising further. Worse, today’s borrowing binge is taking place just before a slow-motion budget-bust caused by the pension and health-care costs of a greying population. By 2050 a third of the rich world’s population will be over 60. The demographic bill is likely to be ten times bigger than the fiscal cost of the financial crisis. _Economist
That's what makes Obama's profligacy so much worse than anyone could have imagined: the productive population of the US is shrinking at the very time when it is being saddled with incalculable debt.
....nothing sends a stronger signal than taking difficult decisions today. One priority is to raise the retirement age, which would boost tax revenues (as people work longer) and cut future pension costs. Many rich countries are already doing this, but they need to go further and faster. Another huge target is health care.....

All this is a tall order. Politicians have failed to control the costs of ageing populations for years. Paradoxically, the financial bust, by adding so much debt, may boost the chances of a breakthrough. If not, another financial catastrophe looms.
A tall order? Worse than that. An impossible order. Tackling social security, Medicare, out of control public sector pensions, etc. is more than the weak-spined politicians of the Obama era would care to take on.

The productive segment of society is growing old and retiring. New generations will lack the skills, the will -- and in some cases the aptitude -- to pick up the mantle of responsibility and productivity. In other words, there will be fewer and fewer skilled and productive workers to pull an ever-growing load.What is Barak Obama's answer to the problems he is making worse every day? We don't really know, but since every day in Obama World is a campaign for something, we should be hearing from the Obama campaign on this topic real soon.

Meanwhile, in the background, the sound of printing presses rolls on into the long economic night.Update: I recommend reading The Debt Conundrum Part 1 and Part 2.


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Homeschooling? More Like World-Schooling

Twenty years ago, parents who homeschooled were pioneers, persisting despite hostile reactions from neighbors, relatives, and local school officials. Today's homeschoolers, with the Internet's vast resources, can form online support groups, read homeschooling blogs, download curricula, or subscribe to cyber-courses for their kids.

"Now a new family that begins homeschooling has a zillion options - weekly homeschool classes at church, chess teams, volleyball leagues, museums and zoos that offer homeschool programs," says Susan Richman, who, along with her husband, Howard, heads Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, a network, newsletter, and Internet bookstore. "People don't have to feel as isolated." _Philly
Conventional government schooling is more like a day-prison and concentration camp for children than a preparation for a full and satisfying life. Lock the kids up in a dungeon for several hours every day, pump their minds full of programmed bigotry, and dump the ravaged, poorly developed kids onto the street at the end of the grisly process with a worthless credential intended to make everyone involved feel better about themselves.

Enter Barak Obama and the teachers union syndicates, and the entire process gets put on steroids in perpetuity -- the institutionalised mind-death of entire generations of children, with no end in sight. Millions of parents want off this treadmill of government mis-education.

They are learning that the only way for their children to learn about the real world that they must face, is to throw away the government indoctrination and misinformation, and go directly to the source. And as more home schooled (world-schooled) children grow up to be parents, most are eager to give their own children the same advantage of bypassing the mind-stifling dungeons in favour of what is essentially "unschooling".
A brief generation ago, homeschooling surged across the country as state after state made the practice legal (in Pennsylvania, that happened in 1988; before then, permission to homeschool depended on local superintendents).

Now, the children educated in the late-'80s homeschool swell are themselves the parents of preschool and school-age kids. And many are opting to carry on the family tradition; after all, they say, they are living proof that homeschoolers can not only function in society, but thrive.

In a 2004 survey of 5,000 home-educated adults, published by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), 74 percent of those with school-age children said they had homeschooled at least one of their kids for at least one year. _Philly

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12 June 2009

Planet Earth's Air Conditioner System

If you want to understand why negative feedbacks predominate in global climate, check out this posting from Anthony Watts.Planet Earth has its own negative feedback climate control that keeps the sun from overheating the planet -- regardless of what humans do or don't do.Climate models have not yet caught on to this dominant feature of global climate, but give them a few more decades and trillions of dollars in research grants, and they might. Of course, by then the developed economies will be wrecked by Obama / Gore / Pelosi / Boxer style energy starvation. But that's politics, right?
Images courtesy of Wattsupwiththat climate blog

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Clever $20 Disposable Cartridge Blood Test Quickly Detects Virtually Any Type of Cancer

Raj Krishnan, a graduate bioengineering student at UCSD, has developed an inexpensive electrophoretic device that promises to detect virtually any type of cancer in the body with a quick, cheap, blood test. Such an inexpensive, broad spectrum cancer screen has been the holy grail of preventive medicine and medical screening for decades.
Cancers that are detected early have the best chance of being cured but, until now, there were no methods of detecting cancer at its earliest stages. Raj Krishnan, a PhD student in bioengineering at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), has created a technology for the early diagnosis of cancer, giving new hope and possibility to cures that have eluded cancer victims for years because their diagnoses were too late.

Krishnan focused his study on the DNA that roams cell-free in the blood as cancers develop, trying to figure out how to separate out the nanoparticles of DNA without degrading them. These nanoparticles are between 5 and 50 nanometers in size, smaller than the wavelength of light.

As Krishnan's professor, Michael Heller, noted: “It’s very difficult to find [cell-free DNA] in blood. The analogy of needle in the haystack has been used, but I’d say it’s more like looking for a needle on the whole farm.”

Actually, it was harder than that, because Krishnan was bucking a process -- using electric field techniques -- that other researchers in the field had "proven" would not work. Krishnan was able to find the right circumstances under which the DNA could be isolated in tact with electric field technology, and he demonstrated it!

Even Professor Heller was dubious about the discovery and spent six months, along with Krishnan, trying to figure out why no one else had discovered it. Then, finally convinced, Heller, Krishnan, and fellow grad students David Charlot and Roy Lefkowitz filed the patent applications, and founded a company, Biological Dynamics, to move their diagnostic technology into clinics.

Their product is a cost-effective blood test that takes less than 30 minutes and detects almost every cancer type. Their business plans call for developing two products: a blood analyzing system which will be priced at approximately $20,000 and disposable electrode cartridges to do the tests, priced at about $20. _Investorspot_via_Impactlab
Easy detection of a wide range of cancers will allow for earlier intervention in the curable stage of most cancers. Some cancers will remain incurable, no matter the stage of detection, and other cancers might be best ignored -- such as low grade prostate cancers in elderly men. Optimal screening schedules would depend upon age, sex, and family history.

But a highly accurate $20 blood test is a much cheaper screen than a colonoscopy, mammography, CT scans, nuclear medicine scans, MRI, exploratory surgery, and any number of other methods of screening, or of ruling out malignancy. In the catastrophically expensive atmosphere of "defensive medicine" created in the US by out-of-control trial lawyers, any reliable way of avoiding testing that can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, would be helpful.


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11 June 2009

Besides Breathing, Drinking Water is Paramount

Image Source
This ocean resort is capable of condensing drinking water from humid seaside air, and of de-salinating seawater to freshwater. Picture such a structure as a community inside a coral atoll, protected from the ocean swell and stormwaves by rings of coral breakwater. Abundant sea life provides ample food supply. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be grown using aeroponic or hydroponic technology.
Now try to imagine a floating breakwater that would function as well as a coral atoll. It is difficult, if not impossible. But since there are few unclaimed coral atolls in the sea, it may be necessary to devise something that comes close.
Seasteads can function in protected waters just fine, as long as accomodations are made with the ruling jurisdiction. If you want a micronation that is independent to go its own way, you have to find a way to survive in international waters.

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Dueling Mirrors: How Many Recursions?

Many old-style barber's shoppes had opposing walls of mirrors that allowed someone sitting in the chair to see an "infinite" number of images of himself, receding into the distance. I am reminded of the dueling mirrors by an idea from a Salerno province high school physics professor to oppose two parabolic mirrors in order to magnify the heat concentrating effect of incident sunlight. Here is the professor's idea:
The design consists of two parabolic mirrors arranged face-to-face. Sunlight first hits the larger mirror and reflects to the smaller mirror placed a short distance away. Then the light from the smaller mirror reflects back, this time being focused into the vertex of the larger mirror. By confining sunlight into this small region, scientists can ideally trap solar radiation. The sunlight is stored in a blackbody, which consists of a cavity with perfectly reflecting inner walls.

"Through a sunlight trap system, solar radiation is first concentrated in a small region of space and then sent into a blackbody, where it can be stored (not for an arbitrary long time, though) for a variety of uses," De Luca told PhysOrg.com. "For example, after having trapped sunlight in a cavity with perfectly reflecting inner walls, what we call a blackbody, one can think of heating water enclosed in a container placed inside the cavity itself. Other uses of this concept are also conceivable." _PO
The European researchers (U. of Salerno) want to use the idea to generate solar thermal electricity, and possibly to desalinate seawater -- among other ideas.

I cannot help but wonder how many times one could repeat the trick, using increasing numbers of opposing parabolic mirrors? Why stop with only 2 mirrors? Each successive nested "zozzaroid" would be smaller than its predecessor, which places limits on your nested array. Alignment would be critical, but could be easily achieved using visible targets or electronic devices. How hot could you make the "black body" target with 6 opposing mirrors? With 12? What about using "fresnel" "parabolic" mirrors for space saving?

The basic idea is similar to a reflector telescope, which "amplifies" the incident starlight from a large area into the small eyepiece optic. It is unlikely that Newton (or even Archimedes) anticipated these particular uses of dueling reflectors.


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10 June 2009

Building a Conscious Machine

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Trying to program consciousness into computers has been an ongoing multi-decadal abysmal failure. The "top-down" approach of programming artificial intelligence into digital computing architectures has been bogged down by the huge differences between how the human brain works to create the mind, and how the human mind works to create human artifacts.

Basically, humans are stupid. Humans are stupid for believing that their conscious, rational minds can encompass the complexity of their 100 billion neuron brains without getting their feet wet and their hands dirty in the blood, gore, and sinew of low level, bottom-up, emergent phenomena. A few researchers have been working from the netherworld of thought, and are making progress.
As Dartmouth neuroscientist and Director of the Brain Engineering Lab Richard Granger puts it, “The history of top-down-only approaches is spectacular failure. We learned a ton, but mainly we learned these approaches don’t work.”

Gerald Edelman, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist and Chairman of Neurobiology at Scripps Research Institute, first described the neurobotics approach back in 1978. In his “Theory of Neuronal Group Selection,” Edelman essentially argued that any individual’s nervous system employs a selection system similar to natural selection, though operating with a different mechanism. “It’s obvious that the brain is a huge population of individual neurons,” says UC Irvine neuroscientist Jeff Krichmar. “Neuronal Group Selection meant we could apply population models to neuroscience, we could examine things at a systems’ level.” This systems approach became the architectural blueprint for moving neurobotics forward.

....The robots in Jeff Krichmar’s lab don’t look like much. CARL-1, his latest model, is a squat, white trash can contraption with a couple of shopping cart wheels bolted to its side, a video camera wired to the lid, and a couple of bunny ears taped on for good measure. But open up that lid and you’ll find something remarkable — the beginnings of a truly biological nervous system. CARL-1 has thousands of neurons and millions of synapses that, he says, “are just about the edge of the amount of size and complexity found in real brains.” Not surprisingly, robots built this way — using the same operating principles as our nervous system — are called neurobots.

Krichmar emphasizes that these artificial nervous systems are based upon neurobiological principles rather than computer models of how intelligence works. The first of those principles, as he describes it, is: “The brain is embodied in the body and the body is embedded in the environment — so we build brains and then we put these brains in bodies and then we let these bodies loose in an environment to see what happens,” This has become something of a foundational principle — and the great and complex challenge — of neurobotics.

When you embed a brain in a body, you get behavior not often found in other robots. _hplus
Other attempts to build a brain from the bottom up include the Swiss Blue Brain project. Blue Brain is trying to build the cortical columns of a rat, then perhaps the entire cortex of a rat. From there, who knows?

Jeff Hawkins' Hierarchical Temporal Memory starts at a higher level than Blue Brain, but still grapples with the low level, essential messiness of the birthing of thought.

The late Francisco Varela, and Mark Johnson, and others have struggled with the concept of the embodied mind for decades, while their colleagues in cognitive science and artificial intelligence were beating themselves up attempting the top-down approach to intelligent machines. In the robotics field, Rodney Brooks was among the first to take a bottom-up approach to building robot brains.

Some of our most brilliant scientists and engineers have crashed and burned in the attempt to program minds from the top down. The problem is a conceptual one, but it often takes decades of failed attempts before even the most brilliant researcher understands the source of his failure. High intelligence is no protection from conceptual blindness. Sometimes it only makes it worse.

In theoretical biology, there is the concept of autopoieses -- self organising, self constructing phenomena. Nanotechnology is learning the idea from biology, in an attempt at a pragmatic skipping over some basic steps in nano-construction by borrowing ideas from biology. Gerald Edelman -- a Nobel Prize winner in immunology -- took his mastery of biological ideas to cognitive science, and began applying autopoieses to cognitive machines. It was a good idea, and progress is being made with it.

Whether humans will learn to "grow minds" intact -- as a whole -- or whether they will grow mental modules that can combine with each other in various ways to create multiple kinds of minds, the concept of autopoieses will be key to the creation of intelligent machines.

No doubt we will apply modifications and elaborations to these incubated minds, using top-down programming methods, but the core intelligence will have been evolved. Most people of "between levels" status will never understand that their brains and their minds work differently. They don't need to understand.

For next level humans, the concept will be elementary, simply a starting point as intuitively obvious as the hardness of stone or the wetness of liquid water.

Intelligent machines are a distinct possibility for the near term -- twenty years or so. Of course, once intelligent machines begin to evolve and combine ... and re-combine ... and re-combine ... who can say where the process ends? That is why more intelligent, wiser, and broader perspective humans are vital to the future -- and very soon.

That's why we can't afford bad government, bad media, bad academia, and bad child-raising any longer. Because the clock is ticking. Despite the Obama depression, despite the global jihad, despite the looming intolerant Chinese hegemony ... the clock is ticking.

There are a lot of things that need paying attention to. Who will be paying attention in 50 years?

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